Saturday, July 23, 2011

Crepes and My Francophilian Fantasy

I started culinary school just about a year ago now, and my blogging frequency has gone way way down. I'd say that has more to do with lack of time than anything else (full diclosure: I blogged at work a lot). I has a little to do with a blog scare back in February, and something to do with me lazily not bringing my camera to school. I'm going to try to remedy that. We make a lot of incredible thing at school, such as these individual St. Honore Gateaux, but I rarely share them. Additionally the recipes have gotten far more complicated in a strange sort of way. I've got the basics down. Things like deep frying, braising, pastry cream and sauce making are a breeze--so easy I don't count them as part of the instructions. But they do count. Braising is simple once you get it, but it has a lot of steps, lots of places where mistakes can be made. I'll try to be better at keeping a record, if only to have a volume of recipes and my thoughts on them not stored on my bookshelf or strewn about in my school bookbag.

We worked on pate a choux dough, which is the stuff that make eclairs, meaning it's awesome. The Gateau St. Honore is a mishmash of a number of pastry elements stacked on top of and inside each other: chantilly cream (fancy for whipping cream) piped onto filled cream puffs which are glued to a puff pastry crust with caramel. It was alright. With the crepes, however, I may have found my calling card.

I first made them in eighth grade French class under the tutelage of Monsieur Srb, a plump and jolly gay man, probably the first outed man I ever met even though I had no idea of his sexual orientation or really the concept of sexual orientation back in 1997. That requires conidering that people are different than you, and thinking of someone aside from oneself is a stretch for the junior high set, or at least for 13-year-old me. Every year M. Srb would put on a mother's day brunch. Our class, nearly 100 percent teen girls, absolutely loved it. We were assigned a cubby to decorate using glitter, sequins, streamers, fancy paper of all sort and (I am not kidding here) fashion dolls dressed in a variety of French-themed costumes. We sliced up strawberries and made strawberry-whipped cream parfaits. And M. Srb had a crepe maker--a sort of upside-down saute pan that made flipping the crepes easy enough for teens. Thus crepes were solidified as quintessentially French in my Francophilian mind. When I went to Paris seven years later at the age of 20, purchasing a crepe from a cart and eating it in the Jardin des Tuileries, the park between the Louvre and the Arc de Triompe (and the Champs Elysee), was on my short list of things to do.
Another seven years later, I am realizing what a brilliant treat the crepe is. It easily straddles the savory-sweet divide and allows all combinations of items to be rolled in a thin and crisp pancake and served from a truck. If nothing works out for me with writing and culinary school, you'll find me at a farmer's market filling crepes with pork tenderloin and peach mostarda (a concoction I cooked up for class) and chocolate, pears and pastry cream.

Crepes: from On Baking yields 30 six-inch crepes
6 eggs
6 egg yolks
12 ounces water
18 ounces milk
6 ounces sugar
1 teaspoon salt
14 ounces flour
5 ounces melted butter

Whisk wet ingredients then add the sugar, salt and flour. Stir in the butter. Let sit for at least an hour before cooking.

Heat a non-stick pan on the stove, melting butter into the pan and then wiping it out just to season the first crepes. Pour one to one-and-a-half fluid ounces of batter into the hot pan, swirling the batter around immediately to coat the pan. Cook until lightly brown on one side, scrape up the edges off the crepe with a spatula, grab a corner with your finger and flip over quickly. Or, if you are deft at flipping sans spatula, give the pan a nice flick of the wrist to turn the crepe. Cook on the other side until golden brown. Remove and fill as you desire.

1 comment:

Allison said...

I don't think M. Srb liked my class at all, because we didn't do the Mother's Day thing. Too bad, because crepes are a gift from God!